The Meanings of the Arabic Preposition ʿAn

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Meanings of the Preposition عن

The word عن is the twelfth حرف الجر (preposition) from the chapter of حروف (prepositions) in Hidāyatun Naḥw.

It gives jarr (the genitive case) to both an اسم الظاهر (apparent/visible word) and a ضمير (personal pronoun).

Example of an اسم الظاهر (apparent/visible word):

عن الناسِ (with الناس being visible/not a dhamīr).

An example of a dhamīr (ضمير):

عنه (The عن is attached to the ه dhamīr).


  1. The preposition عن comes to give the meaning of passing over/exceeding (مجاوزة)- meaning: passing one thing over or away from another thing. This meaning could either be literal or metaphorical.

An example of it in the literal sense is:

رميتُ السهمَ عن القوسِ الى الصيدِ

I shot the arrow from the bow to the prey.

(Here one is literally shooting the arrow, and it exceeds or moves past the bow (عن القوس) to the prey towards the prey, therefore مجاوزة occurred.)

An example of it metaphorically being مجاوزة:

أَطعمتُه عن الجوعِ

I fed him exceeding/surpassing his hunger.

(Meaning, I fed him to such an extent where he surpassed hunger i.e., he was not hungry anymore).

  1. The preposition عن is also used for تعليل (citing the reason); just as Allāh Taʿālā says in the Qur’ān: –

وَمَا كَانَ اسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَن مَّوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَا إِيَّاهُ

“And the request of forgiveness of Ibrahim for his father was only because of a promise he had made to him.”[i]

(The reason for the request of forgiveness was due to/ because of a promise Ibrahim had made, and عن denotes this reason.)

  1. The preposition عن also comes in the meaning of بعد (after), just as Allāh Taʿālā says in the Qur’ān:

لَتَرْكَبُنَّ طَبَقًا عَن طَبَقٍ أي بعد طبق

“You will certainly experience state after state.”[ii]

(In this case عن is used in the meaning of بعد (after), therefore the meaning is state after state).

[Siʿāyatun Naḥw Pg.217 H.1]

[i] Al-Tawbah: 114

[ii] Al-Inshiqāq: 19

Author: Bint Ahmed

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